Henree is waiting for the afternoon train, on which he hopes will be some glass for a window that got broken last week.
Reverend Kallan has walked down to the station too, partly for the exercise, and partly because he's expecting a crate of tracts. He doesn't want them left out to get wet like the last time.
Henree notes that the train appears to be running a little late, and deduces that the last snowfall might have been greater elsewhere.
Kallan stamps the snow off his boots and goes into the waiting room.
Kallan: Ah. Good afternoon, Henree.
Henree: Afternoon. If you're meeting the train, it seems to be late again.
Kallan: More snow in the pass, I suppose.
Kallan: I haven't seen your eldest daughter in church for some time now. Is she well?
Kallan knows... blessed well why Virla has stopped attending.
Henree: Yes. She prefers her own services, such as they are.
Henree is both ~~ exasperated ~~ and ~~ grudgingly proud ~~ of the way his daughter has taken a stand.
Kallan shakes his head more in sorrow than in anger. It's a good thing he can't zlin.
Kallan: At least she hasn't managed to lead many others astray.
Kallan is more concerned about the irreligious, mainly young men, who are donating for the cash and the things cash will buy.
Henree: Oh, they keep getting a few more of their friends interested, now and then. I suppose they'll run out of biddies who are willing to kiss Simes eventually.
Kallan: They'll listen to her talk, those foolish women, but their husbands make sure the family stays on the true path.
Kallan: You can't blame the mothers too much. God wants women to do anything for their children's benefit. It's an instinct, and it leads them astray.
Henree: I guess women do view these things differently, at that.
Kallan: It's terribly hard on them to lose a child, whether he passes the test or not. Men are more rational about these things, I find.
Henree: I guess. Not that there aren't a lot of fools lifting mugs in my saloon, too.
Kallan: Yes. Even one with tentacles, last summer.
Kallan disapproves of Henree's willingness to take D'zoll's money.
Henree: Charged the city slicker double, too.
Kallan doesn't think that's much excuse for trafficking with the soulless.
Kallan: And his slave was recruiting for him in your saloon too, wasn't he? Corrupted a number of our young men, I understand.
Henree: Don't know if I'd call the fellow a slave, exactly. Seemed more like a nanny, somehow.
Henree tries to evade the issue.
Kallan: The Sime had him in his power, and sent him out to buy our boys' purity.
Henree: He wasn't buying what they weren't eager to sell.
Henree turns backwards his standard response to Kallan's occasional chiding over Henree's profession.
Kallan: They weren't eager before they talked to him. He told them what they wanted to hear. The Simes know how to twist a human's mind, and they've taught it to their slaves. All to feed their demonic lust.
Kallan doesn't complete the phrase "demonic lust for the kill".
Kallan: They've become more clever since the war, and they work together now. They teach each other tricks that work to corrupt us.
Henree: It's true enough that D'zoll fellow sounded a lot more, well, rational than I'd expected. No more different than any city slicker, really, and a lot more sane than that girl who was renting my room. I'm starting to think that maybe their most diabolical trick is that they tell the truth. Not all the truth, perhaps, but I've never caught anyone from Simeland in a direct lie. That's a powerful weapon.
Kallan: They're clever. They say they can't tell a lie, but they can still deceive -- distort the truth or lie by omission. They're clever enough not to lie about anything you can catch them out on. As you say, diabolical. Diabolical cleverness.
Kallan shakes his head.
Kallan: It's appalling the way so many have fallen off the path, and are wandering in the wilderness following the lure of money. Last year this was a pure community, and now... well, you can see who's got money they didn't get by honest work.
Kallan knows Henree is profiting substantially by all that new disposable income.
Henree: I know. But I'm starting to think maybe you -- and the Church -- have been taking the wrong approach. It was one thing to scare the kids away from fraternizing with Simes with your stories when there weren't any Simes around contradicting them. These days, if you tell 'em that all Simes are just lookin' for an excuse to kill, they can point to seven of their friends who are alive and well after giving a Snake the opportunity.
Kallan: The Simes have become more subtle. They don't kill, but they corrupt. Our young people get the idea that since the Simes seldom kill now, there's nothing wrong with being Sime. But Simes have lost their souls forever, and they will never see God. When they die, they die like animals.
Henree: Well, Simes killing is the strongest argument the theologians have for deciding that Simes have no souls in the first place, or so I'm told.
Henree has been told that by Virla numerous times.
Henree: In the instances where the Sime's never killed, and there's reason to believe he won't ever kill... well, that calls such arguments into question, you have to admit.
Kallan: They'd still kill, but they restrain each other now.
Henree: Do a pretty good job of it, too, from what I hear. Better than we do, with the Night Patrol and all.
Kallan: You can raise a dog on bread and milk, but if he sees a chance at a piece of steak, he'll go for it. Their nature hasn't changed at all. Soulless killers, on a diet. You can see that every time a child turns Sime. If you don't shoot him, he'll kill if he gets the chance.
Henree: A dog can't think or learn, Reverend. That Sime who was working with Gegg was being provoked, in the worst way, if I understand correctly. If he didn't give in to the temptation, then at least some Simes can resist.
Kallan: Well, he had his slave there, one of those that are trained so they can't be killed. He can do whatever he wants to the slave, so he doesn't have to take one of us.
Henree: That's true. And the fact that he has the slave, and uses him, suggests that to that Sime at least, it's worth a lot of trouble to avoid killing.
Kallan: It would be a lot of trouble for him if he killed one of us. But those slaves -- they breed them for it, train them like animals from a young age to get them like that. It's wrong to treat a human being, with a soul, like an animal.
Henree shakes his head.
Henree: Did you ever talk with the fellow? And see how he and the Sime treated each other?
Kallan: Strangely, they never sought me out. But remember that you would have seen them on their best behavior, doing what they can to make a good impression on us, the better to corrupt us.
Henree: Maybe. But it's kind of hard to keep up that kind of act. They were here for months, and the Sime in Hannard's Ford has been there for years, without a slip. At some point, you have to wonder if it might be genuine.
Kallan: It stands to reason that they'd only let the most stable ones travel out here. They don't want the consequences if we cut off trade with them because they're letting killers get at us. And they always have one of those specially trained slaves with them. Do you think every Sime should have his own human slave? What kind of life is that for a human being?
Henree: From what my boarder said, it's only the channels who have Gens working for them. And those Gens have to really want to.
Kallan shakes his head.
Kallan: And it's only the ones who have slaves who come out here where we can see their act. They've gotten to you, those skillful deceivers. They've convinced you they're all like that.
Henree: Gegg's been living in Simeland for months, among them. His letters to Jed are pretty clear that they haven't seen anyone being mistreated by Simes.
Kallan: He's seeing what they want him to see.
Henree: Gegg's no fool. Neither is Toria. The only way the Simes could trick them is if every Sime in the area -- and there are a lot of them -- stopped mistreating folks the moment they arrived. And somehow managed to keep all the people from talking about what went on before the Geggs got there.
Henree: Now, the Simes there might have the motive and discipline to do something like that. But the people? And the children? Ever tried to get a two-year-old to stop telling unpleasant truths?
Kallan: The Geggs don't speak their language. It's all coming through interpreters for them.
Henree: From what the Geggs write, a lot of the folks at the place they're at speak English. They've got Gegg in front of a classroom teaching advanced classes to the kids. Unsupervised, for the most part.
Kallan: Well, that's what he wrote. Maybe he wrote that freely, maybe not. Maybe they've got him convinced. But the fact remains that Simes have no souls. Whether they kill or are restrained from killing, they aren't human. Lose sight of that and corruption of your own soul seems more and more natural.
Henree: I'm not going to argue with you there -- I never studied Scripture the way you have. But I will say that if you want to keep the youngsters away from the Sime Center, you're going to have to change your approach. You can't tell kids that all Simes kill, when they can point across the street to one who never has and probably never will.
Kallan: Henree, it's our children at stake. If they think it's all right to go to a Sime when the test comes upon them, they'll fail the test. They won't ask their parents to send them to God, and they'll kill one of us. And their souls will be lost forever.
Henree: I know. Believe me, I know. So how do you convince the kids of that, without contradicting what they know from personal experience, or that of their friends? All I know is that when I've tried, all they do is say that they've actually got experience with real Simes, and I don't.
Kallan: These young men who are getting the money without working for it are corrupting the children, destroying the pure faith that strengthens them to pass the test. They're making it harder for them to choose death now in exchange for purity and eternal life. So the corruption they can't see in themselves spreads, and causes human death and the destruction of souls.
Henree: Not to mention disrupting our families and our way of life. Not that youngsters tend to value either as they should.
Kallan: Do you want more of your grandchildren to lose their souls, and kill someone while they're at it? You tell those young men what they're doing to the children, their own sisters and brothers. For their own lives, if not for the children's souls.
Kallan shakes his head sadly.
Kallan: I'm afraid we're going to have more kills here in the village. Children who believe they don't have to die. I'd hate for that to be the way for these young men to see what they've brought here.
Henree: Maybe. Of course, we always did have some who chose not to die. And how many times have I seen the parents of kids who were tested coming into my place to drown their sorrows? Even the ones whose kids passed the test? I tell you, I consider my faith as strong as any, but there are plenty of times I've wondered if there wasn't some other way.
Kallan: God tests the child and the parent. He's a loving God, but a stern God. We have to learn to accept his will without bitterness, and he can be a harsh and strict teacher. That's our fate as sinful human beings.
Henree: Yeah, I know the catechism. But if the Simes really do offer that other way...
Henree: I tell you, if it weren't for the price of admission, I've had my moments when I'd have been tempted.
Kallan: The devil paves a smooth and pleasant road to the pit. The road to heaven is a rougher way. Life is brief, the afterlife is eternal. It's easy to believe that this life is all that matters, and take the easy way. When you find out differently, it's too late to change. That's the importance of faith.
Henree thinks that's a cold comfort.
Henree: Listen, isn't that the train whistle?
Kallan: Yes, I believe it is.
Kallan consults his pocket watch.
Kallan: Forty minutes late.
Henree: Not too bad, for winter.
Kallan nods. He hopes he's had some positive influence on Henree, who's clearly slipping away, fooled by the money he's making from the corrupt, and the ravings of his daughter. Sad when a child corrupts a parent.